Losing a loved one, especially a parent, is hard for children. A child goes through unbelief, hurt, denial, grief, and refusal to accept that a loved one – a father is gone forever. He cannot reconcile his feelings and how to handle them. He sees his mother grieving and grieves with her. He wants comfort but finds his mother in distress and runs to her to comfort her too. He watches how she is coping and depends on her to teach him how to cope.
It is difficult when everyone around is grieving. The child is overwhelmed with grief that at times can have a negative impact on him. In this difficult moment mother and child find themselves sharing emotional pain. Each one has to hold on to each other through mourning but they have to talk about the situation matter-of-factly afterward.
The grieving child needs love and support. Although it is painful for the mother to talk about death, she has to discuss it with him. The most difficult part is when she is in her own pain and yet she has to bear it heroically because her child is helpless about the situation.
If you are in this situation, a mother’s instinct is to shield her child from pain as much as possible. How to tell the child about why his father died may be too burdensome. Other members of the family can assist in answering his questions and calming his fears.
It is difficult to handle when death is sudden, compared to death after a lingering illness. In sudden death, by accident or any form, there is a poignant feeling of loss and incredulity. There may be feelings of guilt or blame, but all the same family members have to overcome these struggles and, as much as possible, reach out to each other. Illness may have prepared children to expect the inevitable that their loved one will succumb to death. Early on they should be told what to expect about the end of life.
In order to spare children from depression and alienation, they have to be reassured of belongingness. Death should be explained to them and why it happens and let them understand that everyone at a certain time goes through that state of leaving, departing and dying. They should not be told that the deceased has just gone on a long trip away from them. They should be told that death is not a kind of temporary journey but a permanent one.
However, they should be reassured and made to understand that, although, they will no longer see their loved one but that he is ever remembered, as if he is just around. They should be taught about the purpose of man’s life on earth and why he cannot live forever. What religious belief about life after death that the family follows should be explained. Belief in the afterlife should be reinforced so that the child will look forward to going where their father went.